Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Henry's Chocolate Cake

See that frosting on top?  That's the cake batter.
Henry, a Sri Lankan man with a passion for Italian cooking, taught me how to make this. I was helping him one afternoon, and along with a delicious tuna pasta, spiced chicken, bbq ribs, florentine steak, we also made this cake.  I say "we", I was chopping onions and stirring batter all afternoon while the mosquitoes sucked me dry.  Can you believe we did all that in merely 3 hours? The florentine steak and the cake were the most popular items of the night.  My goodness it's a good cake.
It contains no flour, it's just butter, chocolate, eggs and sugar -- surely you can imagine how amazing this thing is.  It's like a rich chocolate pudding cake.

200g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
150g butter, room temperature
150g sugar
6 eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Butter and flour a cake tin.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler.
Meanwhile, cut the butter into small cubes and beat it with the sugar with an electric whisk for a good 10 minutes at least.  The sugar has to melt.  Then beat in the egg yolks and the melted chocolate.
Whisk the egg whites with a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  Whisk until stiff peaks and gently fold it into the other mixture.  Pour 3/4 of the mixture into the cake tin, reserving the rest, and bake for 1 hour.  Put the leftover batter into the fridge and when the cake is done and has cooled down, frost it with the batter.  

Monday, 30 July 2012


Oh it's been an unacceptably lazy July. I think I need to blog about my July later because I haven't been really cooking as I toured around Italy.  I went to Puglia, Calabria, then up North to Lazio, Umbria, and I just came back from Tuscany.  I'm looking through all my photos right now, my goodness I ate well.  Anyway, it's been a bittersweet month.  My grandmother, whom I've blogged about, passed away, but at the same time, that brought my sister back to Italy and for the first time in years we as a family spent quality time together.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Lentil Minestrone with Olive Almond Pesto

A good hearty bowl of lentils can be enjoyed even in the summer.  In a nice air-conditioned room.  I love the Italian climate.  Oh yes, it’s a bit hot now, but I enjoy the long strolls under the scorching sun.  I like walks.  I don’t walk in Scotland.  I run in the cold wet rain to minimize my time outdoors between school buildings.  Last time I rushed back home because it was so cold, mind you, it was mid May, and I tripped and fell on the pavement.  Fortunately nobody saw.  If you’re in Scotland or somewhere cold right now, this bowl of lentils is the way to go.  If you’re in a nicer place enjoying the summer as one should – eat this in an air conditioned room.  

Monday, 16 July 2012

Orange Ricotta Cake

Funny story.  I had made this early afternoon in a springform pan.  Well, I poured the batter in, I picked it up, and it was all fine!  Then in that brief distance between the countertop where the pan laid and the oven, which was no more than 2, 3 footsteps away, the bottom of the springform pan fell through and my would've-been-soon-to-be-cake fell flat down to the ground.  Fortunately it didn't splash everywhere and it didn't make too much of a mess, but it was still heartbreaking.  It wasn't that I slaved away for it, I mean, it was simple procedures that took less than 20 minutes in total, that didn't matter.  It was all the ingredients that I had wasted.  Maybe it would've been worse if I was working with saffron and caviar, the ingredients weren't expensive, but still.  There are people starving in the world.
So later in the day I made another one.  In a different cake tin.  It was all good.  It's actually a very thin batter, and it made an incredibly soft and moist and spongy cake.  Do give it a try, ricotta gives it a really nice texture, trust me.  Even my mother loved it, which if you have read my previous posts you'd know that that's rather impressive.

Candied Orange Peel
2 oranges
1 cup sugar

130g cake flour
8g baking powder
3 eggs
170g sugar
80g ricotta
juice and zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Candied Orange Peel
Cut the rind and the white pith from oranges in large strips.  Trim off any flesh still clinging onto the strips.  Place them in a small sauce pan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, drain, and repeat the process again with cold water.
Put the sugar with 2 cups of water in a sauce pan and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  Add the orange strips and bring to a boil, then bring the heat down and let it simmer, partially covered, for about an hour or until the water becomes syrupy.  Take out the orange peels and cut them into thin strips, then put them back in the syrup.  Reserve.  This can be made a few days ahead.

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Butter and flour a cake tin.
Mix the flour with the baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and foamy, then beat in the ricotta.  When all is mixed well, add the orange zest and juice and the oil. Put in the cake tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes.   Top with orange strips and syrup.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Julia Child's Chocolate Souffle

Julia, Julia, Julia.  I love your book.  Everything's in such intricate detail, it's like an ikea DIY set manual for toddlers.  You've got a whole page on just how to beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  I didn't know anybody could talk about egg whites for so long.  I love Julia.  

However, I'm horrible, because I don't enjoy watching her cookery programs.  It's her voice, it's her hair -- just something about her, so I just stick to her book.
...yes, it's mainly the voice.

Anyway, this is different from the breakfast chocolate souffle I made.  That one took 5 minutes to make, this one took more than an hour.  I could simply be incompetent but I didn't want to let Julia down.  I was following the recipe like a bible, and it turned out pretty well.  I should've taken a photo of it as soon as I took it out of the oven but I waited for a bit so it deflated..kind of..but it tasted good!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Pasta with Squash Blossoms and Ricotta

Squash  blossoms -- we used to eat them stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies then battered and deep fried.  However, as the family's currently trying to shed some holiday weight after weeks of shameless indulgence, these squash blossoms had to be consumed in a healthier manner.
These squash blossoms have a really delicate flavor, so you've got to be careful not to mask it with something too strong.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Sweet Corn Breakfast Cake

When hotel breakfasts are good, they're excellent.  I start with the cold stuff: there's an array of cheeses and smoked meats and fish along with vegetables and pickled goods.  So many kinds of bread rolls, pastries, fresh fruits, cereals and dried fruits and nuts allowing you to make your own custom muesli with different kinds of milk or yoghurt or juices.  Then with the hot stuff you've got pancakes, waffles, potatoes, bacon, eggs, oh anything you can imagine, it's delightful!

But sometimes hotel breakfasts are merely mediocre.  I'm currently in a hotel in Cosenza, which is in the Calabria region of Italy, and the breakfast's..yea, mediocre.  I wish they'd just let me in the kitchen and cook myself.  See, breakfast just isn't an important meal in Italy.  It's sad.  I bet they'd all enjoy something like this, a nice warm sweet corn breakfast cake. It takes two minutes to prepare, 30 minutes in the oven while you put your face on in the morning and then it's beautiful.  Why eat boring old cereals and milk when you could have cake in the morning?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Spicy Chocolate Bark

My biggest regret is not taking photos of them when they were broken up into pieces.  See, i meant to. Then I started eating them and got chocolate all over my hands so I couldn't and then I forgot.  They're really really good.  I always feel slightly guilty when the photos don't do the actual food item justice.  You're just gonna have to trust me.  Spicy and sweet and bitter, all these complex flavors together, it's so good. Just look at all the ingredients!
And they make great gifts.  Nothing quite as thoughtful and loving as the gift of homemade food.  It's something I feel like my friend Sarah would love, and my other friend, Jess, would be at first hesitant, but then I would force her into having a bite and she'd like it too :D  I miss my ex-flatmates dearly.  

120g good quality dark chocolate
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp candied ginger
2 tbsp pistachios
2 tbsp raisins

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt over a double boiler.  When it's melted, add the spices and half of the ginger, pistachios and raisins, and remove from heat  Spread it immediately into a thin layer onto a baking sheet, sprinkle the rest of the ginger, pistachios and raisins on top, and put it in the fridge for a few hours to firm up.  Once firm, break into pieces and indulge.

Monday, 9 July 2012

No-Bake Summer Berry Tart

I find that the more free time I have, the less I update.  This is more of a procrastination for me.  Right now my life consists of a series of "small" meals and naps.  That's it.  If you know me you'll know that this is hell for me.  Sleeping and eating -- it's meaningless.  Give me an essay, a project, a deadline, and see how stressed and happy I am as I update Happy Belly on a daily basis.

I suddenly felt like updating because of this overwhelming feeling of guilt that has been building up in me -- it's been almost a week! it's never been that long!  I was reading my two best friends' blog, and I thought ok, I need to do something.  My best friends are currently doing a road trip around the US, go to the link for some humorous accounts and there's a food section in every post :D

Other than having nothing to do, I'm also not cooking that much because a)I'm in Italy and I'm basically living off deli foods [200g parma prosciutto 3 euros, yup] and b) I'm in a 50-year-old house with a 50-year-old kitchen and nothing really works, especially the oven.
So here's a no-bake berry tart.  Perfect for the summer. Enjoy.  

1 portion of basic creme patisserie
1 1/2 cup mixed berries
1 cup ginger biscuits
6 tbsp melted butter

Put the biscuits in a food processor and whizz until it becomes crumbs.  Mix thoroughly with butter and press firmly into a pie plate.  Put it in the freezer for at least an hour.  When firm, spread the creme patisserie in the crust and top with mixed berries.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Miso and Green Pea Dip

4 days without updating, excuse me.  So. I'm going to try to have healthier recipes up here for the next couple of days because I fell off a boat, tore some ligaments -- basically I can't really walk.  It's funny, just yesterday I had decided that I was going to jog everyday, and that very day I fall off a boat.  I'm not meant to be fit.  So I'm not moving, so I can't quite indulge in desserts and whatnot.  So here's a miso and green pea dip I made, healthy and quick, eat with some good bread, everybody's happy.

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